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Electric Vehicles Part 1
Electric Vehicles Part 2
Electric Vehicles Part 3
Electric Vehicles Part 4
Electric Vehicles Part 5
Electric Vehicles Part 6

The following cartoon appeared on page 19 of the November 1973 edition of ELECTRIC VEHICLE NEWS (USA):

24 JULY 2010

This article was in The Age newspaper:

Lead the charge

July 23, 2010
Mitsubishi i-MiEV - picture

Electric vehicles are making their way on to our roads. We meet some of the people who have adopted the technology.

Bernie Hobbs is a pioneer of Australian motoring. The science broadcaster, best known as a judge on the ABC's New Inventors, is among the first people in this country to ditch her internal combustion-powered car for an all-electric set of wheels.

She is the proud owner of a Blade Electron, a car that starts life as a Hyundai Getz before Victorian-based entrepreneur Ross Blade and his team take out the petrol engine and replace it with an electric motor.

The Blade may be a small operation but make no mistake: electric is on its way. Mitsubishi will have 40 of its i-MiEV electric city car on the road by the end of the year. Nissan is likely to offer the Leaf electric hatchback by 2012.

All-electric plug-in cars are a different breed to petrol-electric hybrids, which use electric motors to supplement a petrol engine and don't require a power outlet.All-electric cars run entirely on batteries and hence need to recharge regularly.Electric cars aren't new - they've been around in some form for almost as long as motor vehicles have been on the road. But recent improvements in battery technology have made them a more realistic alternative to their petrol-engined cousins.There are still big question marks over the charging infrastructure, long-term battery life, safety and resale value of electric vehicles.

But none of this matters to Hobbs; she's happy to have adopted EVs early and faces those challenges head on.

"I've been rabbiting on about the environment for 10 years," she says. "When my old car started getting the shakes I thought, 'I don't want to commit to buying petrol for another 10 years.' So I've put my money where my mouth is."

She admits she considered getting rid of a car altogether and joining a car-sharing program but decided to commit to the Blade and join the electric-car revolution.

"For me, part of the reason I'm doing this is because, with my work, I get to talk about it," she says. "It's normalising the idea of electric cars."

It came at a price, however - $48,000 to be exact - substantially more than a Hyundai Getz with a petrol engine.

But she says it's easy to justify that extra expenditure.

"For me $48,000 is a shitload of money to spend on a car," she says. "But I'm paying for my fuel upfront with the battery pack. So if I keep it for 10 years like my last car, that's $5000 a year. In 10 years I'll probably just give it to my nephew."

For critics of electric cars, Hobbs has switched her energy provider to get "green" energy instead of relying on coal-fired power.

"If you're going to use coal fire you're doing no good, you just have a feel-good car," she says.

"[Switching to green energy] takes you from three tonnes of CO2 per year to none."

She's not the only Australian driver ditching petrol power for electricity. The managing director of Adelaide-based internet service provider Internode, Simon Hackett, not only has a Blade parked in his garage but also just took delivery of the first right-hand drive Tesla Roadster in Australia.

To call Hackett a passionate believer in electric vehicles is an understatement. He has been a fan ever since he drove the GM EV1 in the mid-1990s while working in the US.

He ordered a left-hand-drive Tesla in 2006 but had to wait until 2008 for it to arrive. Last year he set a world record by driving the Roadster more than 500 kilometres on a single charge during the Global Green Challenge.

Hackett bought the Blade Electron as his daily driver because he couldn't register his left-hand-drive Tesla for road use. But with the new Tesla able to be driven on the road, it will replace the Blade as his daily commuter car.

It may have cost Hackett more than $250,000 but as far as he's concerned, it's better than buying a traditional sports car such as a Porsche or Ferrari.

"People say, 'How can it be a sports car if it doesn't go vroom vroom?' You get used to it really quickly," he says.

Home on the range

The first mass-market electric car into Australia, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, has an official range of 100 kilometres to 160 kilometres before it needs a full recharge (the Hyundai Getz-based Blade claims 100 kilometres).

The challenge for Mitsubishi and its fellow car makers is to convince consumers that 160 kilometres is enough for them to live with.

The Drive team logged its driving habits for a week and found that all of us could comfortably use an electric car with a range of 100 kilometres each day.

But we found on the weekends that range might not be enough to satisfy us all.

Factors such as the weather, driving style and use of the heater and airconditioning all have an impact on the range; just like the fuel consumption in a traditional petrol- or diesel-powered car.

But, unlike a traditional car, topping up the battery of an electric car isn't as simple as ducking into your local service station. Charging an electric car can take up to eight hours and requires a special power outlet.

Both Hobbs and Hackett believe "range anxiety" won't be an issue for most people, providing they live close to their work.

"For the first few days I was shitting myself," Hobbs admits. "But I realised I really never drive more than 100 kilometres."

She does also admit to having a back-up plan.

"I carry a 30-metre extension cord," she says. "That gives me a bit of confidence." Hackett believes it is only a matter of time before electric cars boast a range to match a petrol car. He says he can get more than 300 kilometres from his Tesla regularly and the company's next variant, the Model S, will claim a range of more than 480 kilometres.

"There's this tendency with people to focus on what happens if you run out of electricity. Well, the same thing that happens if you run out of petrol: your car stops," he says. "But what people need to realise is that range, of 100 kilometres or 300 kilometres, is available every day."

Give it a plug

Infrastructure for electric cars is very much a case of the chicken and the egg. Car companies have the cars but there isn't any significant infrastructure in place yet. Not surprisingly, no one is interested in installing expensive public charging points for a handful of cars.

Unlike the Blade, some electric cars can't be charged using a regular household outlet - they require a 15-amp plug, the same type used for large airconditioning units.

You can get one installed in your garage or office car park for a few hundred dollars but there are a growing number of operators selling specialised charging points.

ChargePoint Australia is one of the first companies to install a commercially operated roadside outlet, in conjunction with car-sharing company GoGet.

The outlet, in inner-city Glebe, is not available for public use, though; only members of GoGet are able to charge the company's converted Toyota Prius EV.

The joint managing director of ChargePoint, Luke Grana, says the rollout of infrastructure will be a gradual process that will be tied to the amount of EVs on the roads.

"We really see it working with the early adopters like local councils, state governments and fleets," he says. "We won't be rolling out a network until 2013 and we'll be growing with the market."

He believes the most likely scenario will see shopping centres and parking stations emerge as the power provider for electric cars, potentially replacing petrol stations.

In theory, drivers will be able to take their EV to the shops, plug in while they doing their shopping and come back to a fully recharged car.

The first signs of this transition have emerged.

Special parking spaces with power outlets are beginning to pop up around major cities but they are few and far between. So far, shopping centres in Hornsby, Dural and Blacktown have become some of the first to offer electric-car drivers a place to recharge while shopping.

"I think it really needs to be led by the car-consumer marketplace," a spokeswoman for Westfield, Julia Clarke, says.

There are exceptions, though. A new multi-storey structure in downtown Perth has 12 parking spots hard-wired for charging.

To ensure the electricity is sustainable, it's sourced from roof-mounted solar panels.

The car park is overseen by the director of business units for the City of Perth, Doug Forster. He says it will serve as a test ahead of further charging points being set up. The council owns 30 parking stations across the city.

Crucially for the rollout of infrastructure and EVs, federal and state governments have so far shown little tangible support for electric cars. Overseas, governments have offered free parking, access to transit lanes or cash incentives to support early adopters of EVs.

The all-important question, however, is: will car fans miss the vroom of a petrol engine?"I thought I would but I don't," Hackett says. "I've got an old Ferrari, a 1985 308, that's a real work of art. But I can't get motivated to drive it. Once you drive an electric car, you realise you are in a generational-changing vehicle. And I don't miss the generation I'm leaving."

Electric cars on the way:

City cars, hatchbacks, sedans and even supercars; there is an electric car suited to almost every need under development somewhere in the world.

• Mitsubishi i-MiEV
• NissanLEAF
• TeslaRoadster
• Tesla ModelS
• SmartED
• MiniE
• Holden/ChevroletVolt
• Renault Fluence Z.E.
• VolvoC30Plug-In Hybrid
• Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid
• VolkswagenEup!
• BMWMegacity
• CitroenC-ZERO
• Peugeot iOn
• Ford Focus BEV
• Audi e-tron
• Mercedes-BenzSLSE-Cell

24 JULY 2010

The following items were unfortunately not available on the web from The Age newspaper and so had to be scanned. They may be rather difficult to read!

25 JULY 2010

Electric car maker angry over import deal

July 25, 2010

AUSTRALIA'S leading electric car manufacturer has blasted the federal government for choosing an imported model to be Australia's first electric trial fleet.

In June, the federal Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Anthony Albanese, announced that the government would be buying 40 imported Mitsubishi i-Miev electric vehicles as a way of encouraging the uptake of electric vehicles.

But Castlemaine-based Blade Electric Vehicles said the decision was inexplicable given that its car, the Blade Electron, was better, cheaper, and had been developed with federal government funding.

''We cannot understand why Mr Albanese has chosen to exclude the Electron,'' said Ross Blade, director of BEV.

''The federal government has spent over $100,000 of taxpayers' money on the development of the Blade Electron through the COMET (Commercialising Emerging Technologies) program. Despite the Electron meeting Australia's design standards, the federal government has chosen instead to lease a foreign product at nearly double the cost.''

Mr Blade said that Mitsubishi was leasing the i-Miev for $1740 a month for a total cost over three years of $62,640. This compared with $900 a month for the Electron, for a total cost over three years of $48,000.

Mr Blade said the Electron was a bigger car with superior performance to the i-Miev and, more importantly, could be plugged into a regular power point for recharging.

However, a spokesman for Mr Albanese, Geoff Sinclair, said the government did not choose the Blade Electron because it was not a mass-produced car and did not meet two Australian design standards, although he could not say which ones.

Mr Blade said that if the Australian government was not going to buy a locally made electric car, it stood little chance of being mass produced.

''In terms of our vehicle being mass produced, the fact of the matter is that if the Australian government is not going to buy them, then how can they be mass produced?''It's a chicken and egg thing.''

30 JULY 2010

6 AUGUST 2010

Melbourne becomes testing ground for electric vehicles


VICTORIAN families will soon be invited to take part in what is being billed as the globe's biggest real-world test of electric vehicles.

Motoring group RACV will soon invite households to apply for 180 places on the $5 million, five-year trial of electric cars, trade vans and motor scooters as part of the state-funded project.

Each household, assigned using a ballot system in anticipation of a rush of applications from interested families, will use a vehicle from the pool for a three-month period.

The feedback they provide will yield valuable information about how they use them from day to day.

The trial was announced yesterday as the first Australian delivery of 20 Mitsubishi i-MiEV battery-powered cars rolled off the ship at Webb Dock in Melbourne.

The 20 cars are the first delivery of a much wider roll-out of the quirky Japanese vehicles in Australia.

Another 20 i-MiEVs arrive next month, with Mitsubishi Australia tipping that 110 of the cars will be on our roads by the end of the year.

The i-MiEV - its name stands for Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle - can recharge using a household power point and drive for about 120 kilometres between top-ups.

Victorian Premier John Brumby said the state would soon install 180 charging points for the 60 vehicles taking part in the trial. "Most other trials only use one type of vehicle and one type of charging point," Mr Brumby said. "This is testing more things in real-world conditions."

Mr Brumby said the state had already received 76 submissions from businesses - from car makers to electricity suppliers - wanting to take part in the trial.

"This will be a big step forward for our state. Today in a sense we're on day one, with the first arrival of fully commercial, viable vehicles here,'' he said.

"This trial will expand as we move through the year and it will be, in many ways, the most comprehensive trial of electric vehicles in any city, anywhere in the world."

7 AUGUST 2010

7 OCTOBER 2010

Article in The Age newspaper:

Free electric car trial

UP TO 150 Victorian households stand to get a free electric car for three months as part of a $5 million, five-year trial.

The state government yesterday announced details of the trial, which will swap a pool of about 60 electric vehicles - including cars, trade vans and motorcycles - between households and another 50 state-based organisations.

The battery-powered vehicles will be assessed in real-life conditions to give car makers and electricity suppliers an idea of the demands that future owners will place on the state's power grid.

25 NOVEMBER 2010

Article in The Age newspaper:

Drive Car of the Year - Green Innovation Award

By Stephen Ottley

Toyota Camry Hybrid - Winner, Green Innovation Award

Drive Car of the Year Awards best medium car nominee, the Toyota Camry Hybrid.

An electric car, a hybrid and a car that runs on up to 85 per cent ethanol were the finalists in Drive's Green Innovation Award.

A Toyota petrol-electric hybrid has claimed Drive's Green Innovation Award for the second year running. Toyota 's Hybrid Camry followed up the Prius' 2009 triumph, winning over the judges with its small-car fuel consumption and above average engine performance.

The Green Innovation award recognises the work done by all car manufacturers to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

The Hybrid Camry was widely praised as breakthrough car for the Australian automotive industry. Even though it uses an imported hybrid powertrain, the judges believed the fact that the Hybrid Camry offers a tangible benefit as soon as you leave the showroom gave it the advantage.

It has become the first large car hybrid from a mainstream local manufacturer, becoming the biggest selling hybrid car in Australia as a result.

But it was a close call to give the Toyota the award, with Holden's decision to invest in E85 ethanol technology also impressing the judges.

While the judges were unanimous that it was a brave, bold step for Holden to commit to what is still a niche fuel there were some large reservations about its benefits.

Ethanol may cut CO2 emissions significantly but it comes at the cost of higher fuel consumption. Other judges noted that the technology has been under development by General Motors for more than a decade but has only just made it to Australia.

The final contender was the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the all-electric city car. Although its green credentials were unquestioned, being the only zero emission vehicle in the running, there were some factors that spoiled it for the judges.

Mitsubishi is charging almost $70,000 for the compact car, and it will only lease the car, not sell it outright. It is also restricted to governments and selected fleet operators at the moment.

But perhaps if Toyota wants to make it a hat-trick in 2011 they should follow the advice of the judge who questioned why Toyota did invest in making the Hybrid Camry E85 compatible.

27 NOVEMBER 2010

Article in The Age newspaper:

New $10,000 electric car on a charge

By Chris Harris
EDay electric hatch
The Australian-designed sub $10,000 EDay electric hatch.

An Australian-designed electric car to be built in China plans to take on the world with a sub-$10,000 price, an iPad like dash capable of downloading apps and the promise of never needing fuel.

Set to debut at July's Melbourne motor show, the Noddy-like EDay hatch will initially arrive next year as 100 lease vehicles before going on sale in 2012 from $9990 (plus on-road costs), undercutting petrol powered competitors by thousands and about 14 per cent of the price of the only mass produced electric car on sale today, Mitsubishi's i-MiEV.

Able to travel up to 160km between charges, it has a top speed of just 80km/h and a weight of 450kg it will be the slowest and lightest new car on the market - and the cheapest, something sure to cement its appeal in a segment where shaving a few hundred dollars can boost sales.

The top secret project is being run by EDay Life, a small Australian company run by former Holden director of innovation and advanced engineering Laurie Sparke and car dealer Robert Lane. The pair have formed a team of 20 designers and engineers and are finalising plans to sell the cars in countries as diverse as Malaysia, Hong Kong, UK and France."What we're bringing ... is Australian innovative technology," says Sparke of the ambitious start-up project. "We are going to develop the new-generation of electric car."

While the prospect of a start-up taking on the established car makers may seem laughable, Sparke says the size, flexibility and clean-sheet approach brings advantages.

Just as fledgling brand Tesla prompted others to take notice - Toyota has since signed an agreement with the Californian electric car specialist - he predicts a rise of next-generation vehicle manufacturers driven from the IT industry, pointing to the Dell computers business model of lean manufacturing.

"If you look at who is driving [the technology behind] electric cars, they're not from the auto industry," says Sparke. "It's the new technology that is coming, and the global [automotive] manufacturers can't respond."

Sparke says a ground-up design allows engineering flexibility while Australian ingenuity - often leveraged by US giants Ford and General Motors with their local operations - and EDay's miniscule size gives it an advantage over established players.

"Currently an electric car is simply the smallest car in a global manufacturer's range. It's had the engine pulled out and an electric motor put in - that's a very compromised solution. An electric car needs to be different in a whole range of ways and we'll develop those in Australia.

The EDay will also get a touchscreen display to control major functions and the ability to download apps that could include everything from basic vehicle data to vehicle-to-home communication

Sparke believes the world will be accepting of an affordable electric car. Already there are various Australian fledgling operations converting conventional hatchbacks into electric vehicles, but the EDay promises to be by far the most affordable.

"Our global advantage is we'll be able to do that in a time frame of three to six months with smart solutions that aren't locked up in the way cars are always being done," he says. "And we'll have globally competitive vehicles."

However, he concedes manufacturing a budget electric car in Australia doesn't make sense, prompting the move to utilise the low manufacturing costs of China, which is fast becoming a global automotive powerhouse. With production set for a Shanghai plant with capacity of 50,000 (and potential for 100,000) EDay plans to sell the cars around the world.

"What we've been very skilled at in Australia the last 20 years is smart engineering. We [Australia] can't manufacture as cheap as China, but we can design, develop, test and certify and that's the automotive business that Australia can do, a world-competitive business."Sparke admits the EDay is a specific vehicle that will sell largely on price and its zero emissions promise.

"We're starting with a car that's fairly mundane," he admits. "But we'll satisfy the market needs because people are eager to have an electric car and its looks are a secondary consideration.

Sparke, who was instrumental in introducing life saving safety features into the Holden Commodore is aware of the mountainous road ahead in a world where profits have slimmed and major brands been forced to change the way they do business.

"Today's challenge is to establish ourselves in the market as a credible supplier of electric vehicles," he says. "To ensure we don't compromise that credibility, we've gone to a lot of effort to monitor this fleet so we don't trip over when we go into a larger volume of production.

"We'll utilise Australian technology and suppliers to do the prototype and testing here. And when we've got a proven solution, we'll send that to our manufacturers in China and they'll produce it."

6 JANUARY 2011

From The Age 6 January 2011

Car gazing: The cars of 2040

By Owen Thomson

What does the future hold for your car?

Owen Thomson asks some experts to predict the future of the car for everyday commuters.

Take a good look around the next time you're stuck in traffic. Take a mental picture for posterity. In fact, wind down the window and take an actual picture to show future generations what Western car culture used to look like.

With issues such as rising fuel prices, diminishing fuel supplies and greenhouse gas emissions increasingly dominating our everyday lives, you don't have to be a genius to realise significant change is inevitable. Indeed, experts tend to agree that the next 30 years will be a time of major transformation.

So, if we were somehow able to focus our collective crystal balls on 2040, what type of cars would we see ourselves driving? How would we be getting to work, the shops, the next suburb, the next city?

Swap and go ... Better Place plans to replace batteries mechanically.

Here's a warning: those hoping for personal jet packs and hover bikes should probably prepare for disappointment.

"Don't think about the future we have seen in Hollywood movies," says Dr Shawn Kook from the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at UNSW.

"In 25 years' time you'll have maybe 10 different options to choose from in terms of [car] power plants - diesel, electricity, a hybrid of gasoline and electricity, a hybrid of internal combustiofn engine with fuel cells, a hybrid of fuel cell and battery power. All those multiple choices will be available."

Peugeot's BB1 is fully electric.

With cars of the future likely to be based on much-improved versions of existing technologies, Dr Kook says the driving force behind new vehicle development will be what he terms a multi-track approach.

"Things that I'm seeing in the future are not things that completely replace the technology that's available now," he says. "The cure for me is this multi-track development methodology for car companies."

"They will have to improve the efficiency of the current internal combustion engine as well as try to develop technology that can use electricity or renewable resources, like solar power."

The EN-V

Future trends ... the EN-V (Electric Networked-Vehicle) was developed by GM and showcased at Expo 2010 in Shanghai.

The technical director of the Western Australia Electric Vehicle Trial at the University of Western Australia, Professor Thomas Braunl, also contends that the future is, not surprisingly, electric.

"In terms of 10, 20 years ahead, I think we'll see a significant fraction of all new cars sold being electric," he says. "At first this will definitely be limited to the inner city, so I think the best market for pure electric cars or battery electric cars is going to be as second family cars."

"Once there's consumer interest, a lot of funding will be diverted to that sector and we're going to see an increase in battery capacity and we're going to see rapid-charging technology becoming mainstream."

That's not to say that petrol won't have a role to play for some time yet, however."Petrol is still going to be around for a long time," Braunl says. "It's not going to happen overnight where suddenly everything is going to be electric. The auto industry takes seven years for the development of a new vehicle."

"So 2020 is when we're going to see the second generation of electric cars on our roads. But I think at that time we'll still have a significant amount of cars still being powered by petrol and diesel."

But emerging technologies are set to be only one aspect that will determine the future form of our cars and driving habits. University of South Australia sustainable design expert Professor Steffen Lehmann says it's impossible to consider future commuting models without also taking into account the future forms of the urban spaces we occupy.

Lehmann, who has held the position of UNESCO chair in sustainable urban development for Asia and the Pacific since 2008, contends that Western society has followed the wrong urban development models and that imminent modification of city structures will not only accommodate the use of electric cars but also reduce the need to commute at all.

"We need to transform the city for sustainability, meaning more liveable, more walkable, more pedestrian-focused," Lehmann says, adding that crucial urban redesign initiatives are already under way in places such as Europe and Asia.

"The car will not go away but the car has to become less important in our lives. Electro-mobility will come very fast - much faster than most people think. It will deliver a built environment that is less noisy and less polluted. If you have people getting around without making noise, it's fantastic."

"People can walk and cycle. This will allow planners and architects to build the city differently. This means people can move back into the city centre, open their windows to cross-ventilate their office or apartment."

"This will allow us to transform the city back into what it used to be before the car made it impossible. Electric cars will allow us to have a different lifestyle. In 20 to 30 years, all cities will operate on this premise."

As any futurist will attest, the development of new personal modes of transportation will only be one part of the puzzle when it comes to revolutionising the people-moving problem.

Adventurous public transport options will also be crucial. Already, the not-so-distant future looks impressive, with some international models promising to radically redefine the possibilities for transporting large numbers of commuters simultaneously.

The yet-to-be-constructed, Chinese-developed 3D Fast Bus has been designed to transport passengers above the traffic in elongated capsules that resemble subway cars.

Designed to run on special tracks embedded in the roadway, the electricity-powered bus straddles roads, allowing other vehicles to pass underneath it. The system is predicted to cut congestion by up to 30 per cent.

Chinese scientists are also believed to be developing a next-generation high-speed train capable of speeds up to 1000km/h. Possibly online within a decade, the design utilises maglev (magnetic levitation) technology in an underground airless tube environment, with the total absence of friction allowing for the attainment of enormous speeds.

But while highly ambitious, don't expect to see similar high-tech options in Australia any time soon. Futurist, engineer and researcher Mark Pesce doesn't believe super-expensive VFTs (very fast trains) and maglevs will be viable options here because of our relatively small population.

On the contrary, he predicts a return to the past in the form of modern tram and light rail systems.

"I doubt we'll see high-speed rail or maglev trains in Australia," he says. "I think until we get 75 million people in the country, it's probably not going to be an economically successful idea."

When it comes to the Australian model, Pesce believes the desire to own a mode of personal transport will retain its traditional allure well into the future. And while also contending that the future is largely electric, he believes our addresses will dictate the exact type of vehicle we drive.

He says that while many people living within the urban quarter may still not need a car, "we're going to now start to see how far we can stretch that boundary". Like others, Pesce predicts a mix of vehicle types to populate the roads, as well as the growth of concepts such as readily accessible car rental and car sharing.

"I think the answer is probably not going to be all one or the other," he says of the ideal car-design option. "I think the little cars that people use to shuttle around the inner city will probably be electric because it's just efficient and cheap and you can recharge them at night."

"But I think when you start getting further out and asking 'Is a ute going to be electric powered?' then it's maybe, maybe not. Maybe it's a hybrid. It's probably still getting really good mileage using fuel. What you want to do is get that fuel out to the country where the low-density population will not foul the country up as much."

When it comes to long-distance road trips between major cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, Pesce says future infrastructure and the availability of rapidly replaceable car batteries will also enable us to also rely solely on electric power.

"You'll be able to pull up to a recharging station and have a battery replaced completely mechanically and it'll happen in about 45 seconds," he says, adding that a system just like he describes is set to be deployed in Israel by the American electric car infrastructure company Better Place.

"If you can get 500-600 kms out of a battery, you'd probably just have a big battery-changing station at Albury."

While options for future transport modes are seemingly wide and varied, one question still needs to be asked: is there a chance that changing work habits might largely nullify the need for many of us to commute at all?

Could, for instance, the practice of cyber-commuting and home working eliminate the need to sit in traffic and clog arterial roads in our daily quest to convene at a designated place of work? While easily achievable even by today's standards, it seems this is one option that's unlikely to result in wholesale changes to our driving needs.

"People's desire to own their own vehicles won't change," Braunl says. "People have their habits and they're going to be very difficult to change. I think people are going to go out of their way to try and improve new [transport] technology rather than trying to change their habits. This is basically part of lifestyle."

Pesce agrees.

"For a lot of people, the desire to be social and to be around other people is a very important part of why they work," he says.

"Some people will enjoy working alone and you'll have those kinds of jobs that afford that type of flexibility. But other people will want to work in people environments where there's a lot of one-on-one human contact."

"Like the fuel situation, it won't be a one-size-fits-all solution."

11 JANUARY 2011

Article in The Age newspaper:

Tesla's Roadster.

By Barry Park
January 11, 2011

A SHINY new super-car goes on sale in Australia this week, but owning one won't cost a single visit to the petrol station.

The Tesla Roadster is a low-slung, electrically powered two-seat sports car that can be recharged from a household power point for less than $12.

With a range of almost 400 kilometres, depending on driving style, that equates to as little as 3¢ per kilometre.

Super-car status still comes with a super-car price tag, though - owning one will cost at least $206,000 - before on-road costs.

Tesla, a seven-year-old US motoring industry upstart, this week opened a sales and servicing network for the Australian market. The move makes its Roadster the first electric production vehicle officially on sale to the public in Australia.

You only need to service the Roadster once a year, and the technician will come to you.The company's US-based vice-president of communications, Ricardo Reyes, said a showroom and servicing centre would be set up in Sydney, with technicians in other cities.''You don't need to have a shop or service centre on every block to make it work,'' Mr Reyes said.

He said Australia has pent-up demand for the electric soft-top, which will sprint from a stand-still to 100 km/h in less than four seconds. That's up there with Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati.

Instead of the fuel-heavy V8, V10 or V12 engine fitted to conventional super-cars, the Tesla has a bank of 6831 mobile phone-style batteries feeding a single electric motor and a one-gear gearbox.

With top speed of 212 km/h, the car can go 394 kilometres between charges.

21 JANUARY 2011

Article in Herald Sun:

Chevrolet Volt: review

• 20 January 2011
The Volt has gone from a great idea to a potential game-changer car in less than 18 months. Photo Gallery Paul Gover road tests and reviews the Chevrolet Volt in Detroit.
Good Points:
• Electric drive
• Sportyish handling
• Engine response
Not So Good Points:
• Cramped back seat
• Likely price
• Delivery delay

The car of the (near) future is up and running in the USA, and heading for Australian showrooms early in 2012. The Chevrolet Volt is the world's first workable electric car, and one that ends the new-age fear of 'range anxiety' with a hybrid system that turns the Prius world upside-down.

The Volt runs on battery power but has an onboard petrol engine that works as a generator, providing a potential range of more than 600 kilometres and ending the fear of a running 'dry' beyond a plug-in socket.

Holden is an early adopter and plans to have the Volt in its range as soon as possible, although a pricetag estimated in the $60,000 range means it will not be for everyone.

But 'range extender' technology could be a widespread hit, providing plug-in city driving and the chance for long-distance trips using gasoline top-ups along the way. "The Volt can be your one car, your only car," says Mark Reuss, former head of Holden and now leading Chevrolet in the USA.

The Volt is only a Corolla-sized, four-seater small car but it is packed with technology and GM's engineers have even done an impressive job on driving dynamics. It's not a sports car but it's not as dull as a Prius. The Volt has gone from a great idea to a potential game-changer car in less than 18 months, with the first production cars about to be delivered in the USA.


It is impossible to rate the Volt without a showroom sticker. The price is likely to be around $60,000 in Australia and that will be costly by any measure. But more and more people are turning to green power and an electric car that can also take a Sydney-to-Melbourne run makes a solid case, with the Prius now priced from $39,990.

The Volt comes with a bundle of value-added stuff in the 'states, including roadside assistance and satnav, as well as a 160,000- kilometre, eight-year warranty on its lithium-ion battery pack.


There is a vast amount of technology in the Volt but its foundations are all Cruze. The GM compact car provides the foundation and the engineers and futurists do the rest.The heart of the Volt is its heated-and-cooled, 198kg battery pack. It's so big that it's shaped in a tee and steals space between and around the cramped back seat. There is also a 1.4-litre petrol engine in the nose that's responsible for charging duties any time the battery gets severely depleted, or when there is a need for sustained heavy pulling power.

GM originally denied the car ran on anything but electric power but now concedes there is one situation - overtaking under full power beyond 110km/h - when petrol power can briefly turn one wheel. A lot of work has gone into tiny details in the Volt, from its lightweight entertainment system to a horn that gives a polite 'toot- toot' if you nudge the turn indicator stalk.

It's intended for warning work in parking lots and should be fitted to every car. The outcome is simple: GM says the Volt can hit 160km/h and has a 0-100km/h sprint time of less than 9.0 seconds, while happily running with similar range to a petrol-powered car.


The Volt is designed for minimum drag and that means a relatively sharp-edged body that's not unlike a Prius. Stylists have tried to dress the shape but it's still no beauty.

The interior is semi-futurist with a range of digital dash displays, including one that shows how you're driving on an efficiency scale, but with a conventional T-bar shifter to select forwards and reverse. The cabin also has some bright colour trim pieces and leather trim is available, but it is very cramped in the back seat and the hatchback roof glass needs a lot of sun protection to shield people in the rear.

GM has two frontal treatments for the Volt - the Chevrolet corporate look and a much more adventurous design for the Volts sold as an Ampera in Europe - but otherwise it is fairly bland and sensible.


The Volt comes with the usual stuff, including eight airbags, ABS brakes and stability control. GM says the location of the battery pack provides the best possible protection in a collision, with systems to prevent anything nasty escaping or causing a problem in a crash.In America the car is also protected by OnStar, which uses a back-to- base alarm system in the event of a crash, although this is not currently available through Holden in Australia.


My first drive in the Volt was exactly a year ago, and it was effectively just a lap of the block at GM's technical centre in Detroit. This time there is more than 90 minutes of driving, on freeways and city streets, with a much better chance to know the car. The Volt fires up easily and, despite an icy winter chill in Detroit, the cabin is soon warm without stealing much battery power.

Heated seats help. Pulling into traffic the response is seamless and acceleration is good. The car easily matches or betters other cars in city conditions, and pulls out swiftly to merge onto a freeway.

Cruising at 110km/h is easy and the car is quiet and relaxed. But the lack of engine and driveline noise means you hear other things, like squeaking trim pieces and some thumping and crashing from the rear suspension. The Volt rides as you would expect for a car in the Mazda3-Corolla class, although it takes time to adjust to the artificial brake feel and the steering is a bit over-keen at times.

Generally, the car matches expectations or does a bit better. There are a number of different driving modes and switching to 'sport' sharpens things, as well as providing more regenerative braking. So you only have to lift the accelerator to get a significant slowing.To check the cut-in for the petrol generator engine I deliberately drain the battery by flicking to the 'mountain' mode, which boosts battery reserves. The cut-in is noticeable but the small four is quiet and there is far less noise than a normal car.

All-in-all, the Volt makes a strong second impression. It drives nicely, delivers on its electric promises, and is far more than just a science experiment. When Holden gets the Volt it is going to change the hybrid game and make life very, very difficult for Toyota with its Prius and Camry. It also promises the sort of range and peace of mind that electric car shoppers already crave.

A hybrid hero that's surprisingly good to drive. 9/10
WE LIKE: Electric drive, sporty(ish) handling, engine response WE DON'T LIKE: Cramped back seat, likely price, delivery delayCHEVROLET VOLT
PRICE: Estimated $60,000
ENGINE: Electric motor with 1.4-litre petrol generator engine
OUTPUT: 111kW RANGE: 40-80km (electric), 600km (range extended)
EMISSIONS: Zero (electric drive)
Toyota Prius (from $39,990): 8/10
Toyota Camry Hybrid (from $36,990): 7/10
Honda Insight (from $29,990): 7/10

28 JANUARY 2011

Article in Care2 online:

Electric Car Gaining Favor Among Automakers and Consumers

By: Jasmine Greene

Electric cars have been around since the 1900s, but it hasn't been until recently that they have really taken off. One of the main reasons for the increased demand of electric cars is due to improvements in technology, but a lot of it also has to do with the increase in oil prices.

Many companies have been creating electric cars on a small-scale basis because of low demand, low efficiency and high cost. Despite many automakers attempting to push their electric cars to the general masses, only 20 percent of consumers would buy an electric car, and only 40 percent of those were willing to pay extra for one.

An study shows that only 2.7 percent of all cars bought in 2010 were electric, with that projected to increase to 3.7 percent in 2011, 4.1 percent in 2012 and 4.8 percent in 2013.

These low numbers and only slight increases are probably related to uninformed consumers, especially in the actual cost of charging the cars. The cost can vary depending on the location. Charging an electric car in Hawaii, for example, will be equivalent to owning a car that gets 36 mpg, while in Washington state it will be far lower. This is due to the varying cost of utilities in different states.

Besides this, the actual efficiency ratings of these electric cars differ from standard internal combustion engines. While the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt advertise a MPG of 93 and 99 mpg, upon closer inspection, the numbers are actually mpg equivalent.

Electric cars' efficiency, like other electronic appliances, is based on kilowatt hours (kwh). For cars, the rate of efficiency is based on kwh per 100 miles. The lower the number, the better the efficiency. The kwh/100 miles is converted to mpg by the EPA to give car owners a basis of comparison to standard automobiles. While the mpg might give buyers a basic idea of savings, to find actual efficiency, kwh/100m should be compared instead.

Besides the cost of an electric car, creating an infrastructure to support widespread usage of these cars is very important. According to Kal Gyimesi of IBV, about 50 percent of the 123 auto industry executives interviewed believe that electric cars will begin to replace traditional cars by 2020. This has led to automotive industries beginning to partner with utilities and startups to help create this electric infrastructure.

Cars could be charged at malls, office buildings and, of course, at home. Even the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, has begun to push for green car initiatives that would focus on investment in battery management infrastructure, modifying building rules to mandate charging points in large parking lots and developing battery swapping and leasing schemes for electric vehicles.

Washinton, D.C. now has two electric charging stations: one for public use at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Center and another for private use at an apartment complex at 425 Massachussets Avenue. Both are part of the Chargepoint program funded by a $15 million grant from a federal stimulus package.

Currently there are 4,600 other regions slated for Chargepoints development, including: Austin, Texas; Southern Michigan; Los Angeles, California; Manhattan, New York; Orlando, Florida; San Franciso Bay Area, California; and Bellevue/Redmond, Washington.

With increasing infrastructure, growing demand for electric cars and improved technology, it seems that it is only a matter of time before standard automobiles become obsolete.

Toyota plans on developing litium batteries in-house with Tesla Motors, decreasing the cost of cars by almost a third. The company hopes to offer a plug-in version of their Prius in 2012 with a price point below $30,000 (compare that to Chevy's Volt at around $40,000).

Even the 2011 Detroit Auto Show has increased exposure to electric cars, offering a new Electric Car Techzone that occupied 3,500 square feet of showroom space. The area featured cars from Ford, Audi, GM, Toyota and Onstar.

Hopefully the projected 4.8 percent electric car owners by 2013 will actually be much higher, should electric cars actually take root and not be killed off like in the 1900s.

4 APRIL 2011

From The Age:

It sounds Italian, but scusi, this electric car is from China

By Steve Colquhoun
Building the worlds largest EV charge network here in Australia.
Going electric for $18,000

A Smart-looking little electric car will be here within months with an enticing entry point.

IT LOOKS like a Smart city car and its name sounds Italian, but the Alpha Lujo is neither.

It is a Chinese-built electric car and its manufacturer plans to begin importing it into Australia in September to sell for as little as $18,000.

From next year it will include Australian parts and design expertise, and Alpha Lujo's chief executive, William Tien, hopes to eventually establish a workshop in Victoria to assemble cars made from parts shipped from China.

Smart ... the Alpha Lujo MyEV 118.

Mr Tien has contracted the former Holden design chief Phil Zmood to redesign the cars to local tastes. Mr Zmood designed Toranas in the 1970s, and some of the early Commodores.

The all-electric Alpha Lujo will initially consist of two models: the MyEV 118, which clearly derives its design ethic from the two-door Smart city car, and the MyEV 128, a four-door that looks a little like the now defunct Daewoo Matiz.

The MyEV 118 has a bank of 28, 12-volt batteries wedged under the back seat. Its electric motor makes a minuscule 15 kilowatts of power, and the top speed is 80km/h. It is expected it will travel 100 kilometres on a single charge, and take eight hours to fully replenish from a household 240-volt electric plug. At $25,000, the MyEV 128 model adds two doors and a more usable rear seat, and can travel up to 140 kilometres at a time. Both models will available in manual and automatic.

The pair will be fitted with two front airbags and stability control, but miss out on life-saving side and curtain airbags.

Mr Tien said he expected the cars to perform well in Australian crash tests after they passed similar tests in China. He said the emergence in the past five years of electric vehicle technology had created a great opportunity for smaller, low-volume car makers.

''The larger, well-known brands don't have any advantage compared with their many years of research and development, and sales of petrol vehicles,'' Mr Tien said. ''The playing field is very much level for competitor brands such as Alpha Lujo.''

He estimated it would cost motorists about $3 to fully recharge either car, or less than half the cost of driving an identically sized petrol-powered car for 100 kilometres.

19 MAY 2011

From The Age:

German push for electric car supremacy

By Steve Colquhoun

Audi's sleek R8 E-Tron supercar is leading the German brand's electric charge.

Government doubles investment to push German makers to forefront of electric car development.

Germany is investing heavily to establish itself as the world leader in electric car technology and steal a march on the likes of Japan, the US, Korea and China.

The German government this week announced it would double its existing investment in the roll-out of electric cars to 2 billion euros ($2.7 billion).

Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to have one million electric cars on German roads by 2020, and six million by 2030, with the likes of Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Porsche and Volkswagen at the vanguard.

However, the extra funding over the next two years isn't likely to fund the car companies' investment in electric cars, or even to help offset their higher purchase price. "We think a direct purchase subsidy won't be the right answer," Merkel says.

Instead, it will help establish incentives to entice buyers to electric cars, such as priority parking, access to bus-only lanes and free recharging. Merkel has also offered to waive road taxes for 10 years on any electric car bought before the end of 2015 that emits less than 50 grams of CO2 per kilometre

A commission established by the German government to spearhead the push to electric cars, the National Electric Mobility Platform, warns that the government instead needs to quadruple its investment if it wants to achieve its ambitious targets.

Daimler AG chairman and head of Mercedes-Benz Dieter Zetsche told BBC World News that car companies also need the German government to subsidise the higher purchase price of electric cars.

"We need a competitive product," he says. "The German industry is well on the way to become the lead supplier for electric cars. In order to become the lead market we must partially bridge the gap between the initially high costs of these new products, and the willingness of customers to pay."

Governments around the world continue to wrestle with how best to assist the transition from cars fuelled by polluting fossil fuels to alternative drivetrains including electric, petrol-electric hybrid and hydrogen fuel cells.

Some, including the US and Japan, already offer direct subsidies to buyers of electric vehicles, while others are investing in charging infrastructure or other ownership incentives such as those favoured by the German government.

The Australian federal government is yet to act, despite the arrival last year of the plug-in electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV, while cars from Nissan (the Leaf) and General Motors (to be sold in 2012 as the Holden Volt) are due soon. It's expected that without any subsidies or government assistance, the two compact hatches will sell for up to $60,000.

Car companies including Nissan, Holden and Mercedes-Benz have lobbied hard to attract government support for their electric models, so far to no avail.

Another pressing issue stymying the public perception of zero-emission electric cars as a true green alternative is that the overwhelming majority of electricity in Australia is "dirty", having been generated by burning brown coal that creates significant CO2 output.

A shortage of public charging infrastructure and the perceived lack of driving range of most electric vehicles also continue to be problematic.

21 MAY 2011

From The Age:

Noisy argument over electric cars

By Richard Blackburn

Researchers believe pedestrians rely on the sound of cars more than they realise when crossing roads.

Debate rages over how silent vehicles should alert pedestrians.

Electric cars should sound exactly the same as their petrol-powered counterparts at low speeds for safety reasons, a leading European sound and vibration expert says.

Danish firm Bruel & Kjaer, which is involved in British research into artificial electric car noises, says the sound of a regular internal combustion engine is the safest way to alert pedestrians to the presence of electric cars moving at low speeds.

The European Union is considering making it mandatory for electric vehicles to emit a sound when travelling at less than 30km/h to protect pedestrians.

When the EU first raised the topic last year it indicated it would allow car companies to make up their own sounds. Some brands have speculated they may choose science-fiction-style alarms - including whirring spaceships and Star Wars pods - to alert pedestrians.

But Bruel & Kjaer's marketing manager, Julian Simpson, says research carried out by the University of Warwick in England suggests pedestrians want electric cars to sound the same as petrol-powered vehicles.

The research played seven different tones to pedestrians and the one they felt most comfortable with was the simulated sound of an internal-combustion engine.

''We are already programmed to listen for that kind of sound so it makes sense from a safety point of view,'' he says.

He says the traditional sound is also likely to find favour with manufacturers, who spend considerable amounts of time tuning their exhaust notes to make them distinctive.

''The car companies don't want governments deciding what type of noise their car makes,'' he says.

''The sound of their vehicle is a huge part of some car companies' brands. They spend an enormous amount of time and money getting it right.''

The most likely course of action for regulators is to allow each car company to come up with its own signature tune and merely set a minimum volume for the sound.

Simpson says the alert sound is only needed for speeds of up to 30km/h because after that the wind and tyre noise generated by the car is enough to warn pedestrians.

Tyre makers are also working on potential solutions, with Michelin looking at developing an ''intelligent'' tyre that makes a lot of exterior noise at low speeds and less noise at higher speeds.

Porsche has a working engine sound on two experimental electric versions of its Boxster convertible. The sound, which resembles a normal Porsche at idle, is activated by a button on the dash.

It stays at a constant level when the car is stationary but rises and falls in volume with the accelerator pedal once the car is moving.

An engineer for Porsche, Guenther Hoechsmann, who is part of the team that developed the sound, is still not convinced artificial sounds are what car buyers want in an electric vehicle.

''Is it right to make old sounds with new technology?'' he says.

''I'm not sure. Sound creates emotion but we're still not sure what role sound should play in an electric car.

''Personally I like to drive [electric cars] without sound, so you feel like you are gliding over the road.''

The Warwick research has tested a range of sounds on pedestrians, including music, sounds from nature and spaceship-style noises. Researchers believe most pedestrians rely on sounds more than they realise when they cross a road.

For example, sounds can tell a person if a car is travelling fast or whether it is accelerating or slowing. It's not the first time artificial sounds have been incorporated into consumer products. Many digital cameras simulate the noise of a shutter closing, while cash machines whir before they dispense cash.

28 MAY 2011

From The Age:

Electric blue: Hydrogen takes on electricity

By Richard Blackburn
Berlin's green car olympics

The Berlin Bibendum gives car manufacturers a chance to show off their environmental credentials.

Are electric cars losing their spark as hydrogen-powered vehicles make a late charge in the race to zero emissions?

The car industry’s well-publicised love affair with electric vehicles could be losing its spark before it’s properly consummated.

For the past few years car makers have been spruiking a future where the family car is hooked up to a power point in the garage, and where the car industry stops being the most celebrated scapegoat for global warming.

The show car de jour at global motor shows for the past few years has had a cord protruding from where the petrol pump used to go.

Hydrogen power
British firm Intelligent Energy, has developed a fuel-cell version of the London cab.

But in recent months, it seems that the car industry is beginning to realise the limitations of a plug-in future. There’s just no way around the fact that battery vehicles simply aren’t up to the task of replacing the family car.

Even their staunchest advocates admit they are likely to be a second car for affluent families for the foreseeable future. The bottom line is that no-one can build a battery-powered car that can be both affordable and able to cover sufficient kilometres to overcome buyer anxiety about their car limping to a stop several kilometres short of its destination.

They may work as city runabouts, but as a replacement for the trusty Commodore, they fall short.

With the initial warm glow of infatuation with EVs beginning to fade, an old flame has begun to take on a new attraction for the big makers.

As electric vehicles hogged the limelight, fuel-cell vehicles seemed destined to remain pie-in-the-sky projects tackled by eccentric misfits in white jackets who had been pensioned off to “future projects” by young, ambitious executives on the way up the corporate ladder.

If you ask the US Government they still are. While the Bush administration committed $US2.5 billion over five years (2004 to 2009) to fuel-cell research, the current Obama government first slashed the funding to less than $50 million a year, then cut it altogether in favour of the quick fix promised by plug-in electrics.

But while the US is no longer a fan of fuel-cell cars, the car industry most definitely is.

The world’s leading car companies are talking about fuel-cell vehicles being commercially available within four years and the technology is back in the limelight.

If they can get it right, the attractions of the fuel-cell vehicle are immense. Electricity generated on-board via a chemical reaction between two of the world’s most abundant elements, hydrogen and oxygen, with only water vapour coming out of the tailpipe.

At this month’s Michelin Challenge Bibendum in Berlin - an annual show and tell for sustainable motoring – the fuel-cell was well and truly back.

The chairman of the event, Dr Patrick Oliva, says he noticed the trend as soon as the Challenge opened its gates, with fuel-cell vehicles making up roughly 30 of the 280 vehicles on display at the event.

“Fuel cells are definitely back on the agenda, absolutely,” he says.

Of plug-in electric vehicles, he says: “They are going to continue to be heavy and they will continue to be limited in their energy density.”

He says it is “unthinkable” to believe electric vehicles will be able to deliver conventional car-like range at a reasonable price.

“If you’re looking for 400km of range there is no way you have a solution that is competitive. Don’t expect high mileage and a reasonable price.”

General Motors subsidiary Opel says that in order to achieve a 500km driving range, an electric vehicle would need to carry around a battery that weighed 800kg, not much less than a Mazda2. That compares with 125kg for a hydrogen tank and 43kg for a diesel tank.

More importantly it would also be prohibitively expensive. Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV - a city runabout - would be likely to cost $80,000 if it were offered to private buyers in Australia.

With those figures in mind, Opel is taking a three-pronged strategy that involves small battery powered cars for city commuting, hybrids that operate as electric vehicles over short distances and use small petrol engines to extend their range, and fuel-cell vehicles.

The company’s manager of hydrogen and fuel-cell deployment strategy, Dr Lars Peter Thiesen, says the limitations of battery powered EVs make other strategies a necessity.

“In order to cover mid to long-range distances with a pure battery-driven car, you’d have to install batteries that are heavy, bulky and need charging for many hours,” he says.

He says the future lies in electric cars “powered by fuel cells, with hydrogen as the fuel”.

Opel chief executive, Karl-Friedrich Strache, says fuel-cells appeal to a wider range of drivers because they perform in much the same way as a conventional car.

“With hydrogen you can store energy in a much more compact form than a battery. It is therefore much closer to what we’ve come to expect from diesel or gasoline. So the answer to the question: ‘do we need fuel cells?’ is a definite yes,” he says.

“They provide long range without limitations in vehicle size or functionality. They are zero-emissions vehicles all the time and they can refuel in just three minutes.”

Opel and GM have been working on fuel-cell technology since the 1960s and the company says it will reach “production maturity” by 2015. GM is not alone – Toyota is also predicting it will start production of fuel-cell vehicles in 2015, while the Hyundai-Kia group is aiming at a 2012 launch date.

Honda is looking at 2018 for its Clarity fuel-cell vehicle, while China’s Shanghai Automotive says it will be ready for limited sales in 2015. Even the Volkswagen Group – a vocal critic of hybrids and electric vehicles in the past, has come to the party.

The group had a fuel-cell Audi Q5 At the Challenge Bibendum, joining fuel-cells from mainstream companies including Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Toyota and Opel.

Audi engineer Friedrich Wilhelm expects fuel-cell vehicles to appear in the Audi range five years from now “in some cities”.

“They should be widespread in 10 years. At the moment, the technology is ready, but the cost is still too high,” he says.

That cost has a lot to do with the fact that fuel-cell vehicles don’t enjoy the economies of scale that full-scale manufacturing provides. The cost of materials for the fuel-cell stack itself is still high as well.

“There are hurdles. We are working to reduce the platinum content in fuel stacks, which makes them expensive,” he says.

How expensive? None of the leading players has quantified that yet, but Chinese car maker Shanghai Automotive (SAIC) has.

It is developing a fuel-cell vehicle that is also a plug-in. The innovative approach is done to keep costs down – by using grid electricity as well as onboard electricity via the fuel cell, it can make the expensive fuel stack smaller and lighter.

“We can then bring it in at a reasonable cost,” the general manager of SAIC’s new electric vehicle division, Pin Gan, says. That cost is still likely to be prohibitive, though, with Gan estimating the will cost roughly $80,000, although subsidies from the Chinese government would halve the cost to the motorist.

Apart from the cost, the main enemy to fuel-cell acceptance is lack of infrastructure, but Gan says the car is likely to launch in five Chinese cities that will build the refuelling stations necessary.

British firm Intelligent Energy, which has developed a fuel-cell version of the London cab, is equally bullish about the prospects of hydrogen power.

The company’s director of communications, Dr Jon Moore, says concerns about refuelling infrastructure have been overstated.

“The cost of developing hydrogen infrastructure is substantially less than the cost of maintaining existing petrol infrastructure,” he says.

He believes the overall running costs of fuel-cell vehicles will rival petrol cars within a few years.

“There is nothing inherently expensive about fuel-cell technology. It’s only expensive now because the cars are made in smaller numbers,” he says.

He says fuel-cell vehicles are far more practical as a long-term solution than electric vehicles powered by the grid.

“Anyone who buys a battery electric vehicle as their family car is going to have to change their lifestyle because of the limited range,” he says.

Fuel-cell vehicles would be able to match the range of petrol-powered cars in the near future.

A recent study commissioned by some of the world’s leading car makers also paints a positive picture of the future of fuel-cell vehicles.

The report, prepared by consultants McKinsey and Company for several carmakers, says that recent breakthroughs in fuel-cell technology have “increased their efficiency and cost-competitiveness significantly”.

The report, released late last year, used confidential data supplied by car makers to map out a range of scenarios covering all types of electric vehicles. Companies that supplied data to the study included Toyota, Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Honda, BMW, Nissan and Daimler AG.

The report found that limited battery capacity and driving range, as well as long recharging times, would confine plug-in battery vehicles to urban driving.

It concluded that fuel-cell vehicles, with range and performance comparable to conventional petrol-engined cars, were the best solution for family cars covering longer distances.

“These segments account for 50 per cent of all cars and 75 per cent of CO2 emissions... FCEVs are therefore an effective low-carbon solution for a large proportion of the car fleet,” it said.

The report found that after 2030, fuel-cell vehicles would provide the lowest total cost of ownership of any electric vehicles and comparable costs to petrol cars, depending on the regulatory environment. It also dismissed concerns about infrastructure, finding that the cost of building a hydrogen refuelling infrastructure would be just 5 per cent of the overall cost of a fuel-cell vehicle.

“The cost of infrastructure (5 per cent of the total cost of ownership) will not be prohibitive to its roll-out.”

The cost of ownership advantage of petrol-powered cars is likely to be eroded by legislation, particularly in Europe where more governments are imposing financial burdens on conventional cars.

The UK sales manager for electric car maker Mia, Richard Deslandes , says government subsidies and EV-friendly legislation will make them a more attractive financial proposition.

“In Britain, once you add up the London congestion tax exemption, free parking, free charging, reduced insurance premiums and other peripheral savings you could be looking at annual running cost savings of 3500 Euros a year,” he says.

Audi’s Wilhelm says both electric vehicles and fuel-cells have their place, with EVs offering the convenience of recharging from a household plug at home and fuel-cells offering fast refill and better range.

Bernhard Gruenwald, Toyota’s senior manager for external affairs in Europe, says fuel-cells have more potential to make an impact on the world’s CO2 output because they will replace larger cars that typically drive more kilometres (fleet cars and taxis for instance).

“If you really want to make an impact, do you focus on small cars that already have low fuel consumption and low mileage, or do you look at large cars that cover lots of miles,” he says.

“Electric vehicles are good for getting noise and pollution out of cities, but how much primary energy do they replace?”

He says that EVs also produce varied CO2 outcomes depending on how their energy is provided.

“A badly managed EV is not as good as a diesel for CO2,” he says.

Electric vehicles that are hooked up to coal-powered grids create almost as much CO2 as conventional internal combustion vehicles.

That point was proved by a fuel efficiency rally around the streets of Berlin as part of the Bibendum Challenge, where EVs hooked up to the German electricity grid emitted the equivalent roughly 80 grams of CO2 per kilometre, compared with just 90g/km for the conventional internal combustion engines.

If the rally had been held in France, which uses wind and nuclear energy to power its grid, orgainsers say the EVs would have put out roughly 20g/km.

Those figures match up with a recent study done by Audi that found its A1 e-Tron electric car produced 171 grams of CO2 per kilometre in China, 84g/km in the Europe Union and just 7g/km in Norway, which uses hydroelectricity almost exclusively for power generation.

Closer to home, your electric vehicle could emit little or no CO2 if you lived in Tasmania, and more than a conventional petrol or diesel if you lived in Victoria.

But hydrogen power is not without its problems either. At the moment the most common way of producing hydrogen is to extract it from fossil fuels, mainly natural gas, which means that, in what experts call the “well to wheel” cycle, fuel-cell vehicles produce significant CO2.

Electric vehicles also have a huge infrastructure advantage over fuel cells, as every home can be easily and inexpensively transformed into a service station, while shopping malls and corporate carparks can offer fast charging.

Experts believe it will also be relatively simple to set up a network of Induction charging outlets, whereby an electric car can be charged by a plate in a parking spot without the need for cables and plugs.

In contrast, finding a hydrogen refuelling station anywhere in the wolrd is like searching for the proverbial needle in the haystack. Air Liquide, one of the world’s leading hydrogen supply companies, has just 50 refuelling stations worldwide.

There’d be more Caltex outlets in Sydney.

Then there’s the matter of on-board storage. Hydrogen tanks are bigger and bulkier than petrol tanks, and the public still has to be sold on the concept of carrying hydrogen in a moving vehicle (the older generation, the people who will be able to afford fuel-cell vehicles first, associate the fuel with atomic bombs and burning airships).

The chairman and chief executive of Air Liquide, Benoit Potier, says the barriers to fuel cells are significant but not insurmountable.

He says the company couldn’t provide the full solution for hydrogen supply at a competitive cost, but it was well advanced in several areas.

“Production is not an issue. We can produce hydrogen in large amounts at a competitive price. We do it regularly. Storage, in particular in vehicles, is improving very fast. We are testing high pressures, we have special technologies to really make hydrogen viable in terms of quantities stored onboard for giving 700 kilometres range,” he says.

He says the main obstacle is refuelling infrastructure.

“We are working with a team of companies to assess whether we have a road-map between now and 2020/2050 to accompany the introduction of hydrogen as an alternative fuel for cars,” he says.

Potier’s dates for commercialisation of fuel cells are significantly less bullish than some car companies. Even the makers themselves can’t agree; Opel says 20 per cent of the world’s fleet will be electrified by 2020, while the Peugeot-Citroen group says 5 per cent.

The only thing certain about the future of alternative fuels, it seems, is the uncertainty.

Fuel-cell future
Hyundai ix35 FCEV

Based on Hyundai’s popular compact SUV, this fuel-cell will be the first to market.

The Hyundai-Kia group developed its first fuel-cell vehicle in 2000 and has pilot programs in the US and Korea with an 80kW version of the Tucson (the ix35’s predecessor).

Hyundai says the car’s driving range is “comparable” to the petrol-powered ix35. The SUV has a top speed of 160km/h and completes the 0-100km/h sprint in a whisker under 13 seconds.

Mercedes-Benz F-CELL

The current F-CELL prototypes are based on the current generation A-Class, but when the F-CELL is launched in 2015, it will have the new, sleeker hatch styling of Mercedes’ next generation A and B-Class.

The F-CELL’s batteries are fitted under the car’s floor and the hydrogen tanks – which add 300kg to the car’s weight, are over the rear wheels.

The F-CELL puts out 100kW and 290Nm of torque available from zero rpm. That combines to produce a 0-100km/h time of 11 seconds, which is average to slow for a small hatch.

Honda FCX Clarity

The first FCX prototype was unveiled more than a decade ago, and loaned out to customers on a trial basis from 2002. In 2008, it released a new version with bespoke styling.

Honda says the Clarity is now a production vehicle, although it only plans to build 200 units, and you can’t buy one – only lease it.

The Clarity has a 100kW motor and a claimed range of more than 600km. The 0-100km/h sprint takes a claimed 10 seconds.

Opel HydroGen4

As the name suggests, the Opel is an evolution of a theme. The latest version, which is based on the Chevrolet Equinox SUV, hit the road in 2008.

The peak power output of the Gen4 is 94kW and Opel says it will complete the 0-100km/h sprint in 12 seconds on its way to a top speed of 160km/h. Range is 340km.

It goes into production in 2015, but Opel isn’t saying what type of body the technology will wear. The Equinox was chosen simply because it had space for all the necessary hardware. A purpose-built chassis will be more effectively packaged, creating the potential for a sedan or compact SUV.

Toyota FCHV-adv

Toyota first started leasing a fuel-cell version of the Highlander (called the Kluger here) in California and Japan in 2002. The company has been refining the system since and in 2008 released the FCHV-adv.

The new model still has the old Kluger body, but underneath is a revised fuel cell that produces 90kW of power and 260Nm of torque. The car reaches 100km/h in 12 seconds on its way to a top speed of 155km/h. The company claims range is roughly 750km

Audi Q5 HFC

Audi is a latecomer to the fuel-cell party. It calls the Q5 HFC a “technical study”, although engineers say the vehicle could be production-ready within five years.

Two electric motors drive the car’s front wheels, developing a combined output of 90kW of power and 420Nm of torque.

Despite all that torque, the Q5 accelerates to 100km/h in a leisurely 14 seconds. Audi engineers say that the SUV could easily achieve a sub-10-second time with extra motors powering the rear wheels. They are targeting range comparable to the petrol version of the SUV.

13 JUNE 2011

From Care2 online:

The Importance of Electric Vehicles

By Gina-Marie Cheeseman
• June 13, 2011

Developing electric vehicles is important in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. American vehicles are responsible for almost half of the GHGs emitted by vehicles globally, but make up 30 percent of cars in use, according to a 2006 report by Environmental Defense.

Transportation accounts for 30 percent of U.S. GHG emissions and five percent of global emissions, according to a 2010 report by the U.S. Department of Transportation. In 2006, GHG emissions from on-road vehicles accounted for 79 percent of transportation emissions, and 59 percent were from light-duty vehicles, which includes passenger cars and pick-up trucks. Increasing fuel economy is suggested in the report as one way to reduce GHG emissions from transportation. Completely electric vehicles such as the Focus Electric go one step further: they eliminate the need for fossil fuels.

“Electric Vehicles will bring about new ways of refueling,” a 2010 Ford press release stated. “Instead of topping off the tank with gasoline, customers will plug in.”

Ford tripling production of electric vehicles

The Ford Motor Company is tripling production of five electric vehicles in North America through 2013. Ford will build 100,000 electric vehicles by 2013, 35,000 more than it currently manufactures.

One of the five electric vehicles is the Ford Focus Electric. Ford describes the vehicles as the “first fuel-free, rechargeable passenger car from Ford.” Derris Kuzak, group vice president, Global Product Development, says of the Focus Electric, “Its advanced powertrain will deliver significant energy efficiency advantages and zero CO2 emissions without compromising driving enjoyment. And its suite of smart driver information technologies will transform the way customers think about energy usage and their transportation needs.”

“Customers have come to expect fuel efficiency with every new vehicle Ford delivers today, and now we are further differentiating our electrified vehicle lineup with something else people truly value – choice,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s group vice president of Marketing, Sales and Service.

24 JUNE 2011

Article in The Herald Sun newspaper:

Renault Fluence electric plan

By Paul Gover
• 21 June 2011

Renault promises the car will cost much the same as a petrol version of the Fluence, which means less than $30,000.

ELECTRIC cars are finally started to make a spark in Australia with Renault joining the plug-in movement ...

... that already includes Mitsubishi, Nissan, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Renault is taking a shortcut by converting its four-door Fluence sedan, already on sale in Australia with a petrol engine, to electric power and expects to add extra models as they become available from France.

But there is a big twist - Fluence Z.E. buyers will only pay Renault for the car and will then sign a contract with the Better Place organisation for their battery and energy supplies.

Renault promises the car will cost much the same as a petrol version of the Fluence, which would mean less than $30,000, but no-one is talking yet about the other costs or the exact rollout of the charging points and battery-swap locations that Better Place said will eliminate the 'range anxiety' that hangs over the future of electric cars.

"Our vision is clear. The overall cost of ownership must be equivalent to an internal-combustion car," said Justin Hocevar, managing director of Renault Australia. "Sales of the Fluence Z.E. will begin before the end of 2012."

The Renault move comes less than a week after Mitsubishi set the price of its very basic iMiEV plug-in car at $48,800 and following the commitment by its global Nissan-Renault alliance partner, Nissan of Japan, to a dedicated electric car called the Leaf.

The Nissan, too, is expected in Australian showrooms next year. Renault and Better Place are short on any real detail beyond the basics of the Fluence E.V. and a commitment to a national rollout of charging infrastructure that will start soon in Canberra.

"I'm very confident that the vast majority of electric car drivers will be able to drive wherever they want and whenever they want," says Evan Thornley of Better Place. He said that long-term supply deals for renewable energy, starting in Canberra, mean that electric car drivers will have more certainty on their long-term running costs than drivers of petrol-powered cars that face the uncertainties of oil company pricing.

4 JULY 2011

Article in The Age newspaper:

CBD to plug into cars of the future

By Clay Lucas

A dozen charging stations for electric cars are likely to be installed in the CBD. Photo: Reuters

IN A Victorian first, charging stations for electric cars are likely to be installed at 12 on-street parking spaces in Melbourne's city centre, as part of a program being introduced by the Department of Transport.

Melbourne City councillors will tomorrow vote on a plan to work with the department to alter a dozen metered parking spaces in the CBD to make way for electric car recharging devices.

Each metered parking space earns the city $10,000 a year in parking fees. But the council, which is likely to approve the plan, will not lose money as a result of installation of the electric vehicle recharging spaces.

A report to be presented to the council's Future Melbourne committee tomorrow says the loss of parking revenue ''will be compensated by the conversion of other on-street spaces … to metered parking''.

The 12 parking spaces will either be 30-minute ''fast-charging'' spots, or two-hour standard recharging locations.

Lord mayor Robert Doyle said it was important, if motorists were to have faith electric cars would one day be widely popular in Australia, that people started to see infrastructure being introduced.

''You need visible demonstration projects to show people that this is not some wacky idea of the future; this is with us right now,'' he said.

The council would try to find high-visibility spaces on busy streets, he said, so that people would notice electric cars being recharged. Electric cars are starting to enter the Australian car market. Although still expensive, the cars have zero exhaust emissions, lower running and maintenance costs, and are much quieter.

Holding back the increase in market share for electric cars is ''range anxiety'' - driver concern that they will run out of power in the middle of a trip. Most electric cars can travel about 120 to 150 kilometres before needing to be recharged. There is also concern about the standardisation of chargers.

The Department of Transport is running a five-year trial of electric cars. Earlier this year, 60 households were given electric cars from one of five manufacturers, to drive for three months and report back on their experiences.

The new on-street parking spaces are expected to be installed by January, if the move is approved by the council.

4 JULY 2011

Article in The Age newspaper:

By Lawrence Money

Electric car man gets a shock

Melbourne City Clowncil was voting last night on our first on-street recharging stations for electric cars. Clean, green electric, it’s the only way to go, eh? So how come Australia’s only home-grown electric car maker, Blade Electric Vehicles, of Castlemaine, has been locked out of this week’s International Motor Show?

“We tried for months to get a response from the show organizers,” says company chief Ross Blade. “Eventually I was told that the board, comprising the major international motor manufacturers, had met and our name came up and it was voted that we should not be permitted to exhibit at the show.”

“They, of course, have their electric product in the show but we are the only Australian electric vehicle maker. Our Blade Electron has been on the road since 2008. They know about us and we were quite shocked that they used that veto.”

The Blade company imports Hyundai Getz car bodies then fits electric drive systems. “Our vehicles sell for $47,000 plus on-road, which compares very favourably with the international companies whose electric cars are all above 50k.” The Blade Electron can reach 80km/h and travels an estimated 100 kilometres around the city on one charge.

What does the Motor Show say? Nothing, really. Show HQ flickpassed me to the VACC but, ay close of play, our queries had gone unanswered.

6 AUGUST 2011

Article in the Sydney Morning Herald Weekend Drive:

BMW's paradigm shift

By Richard Blackburn

This week we examine BMW's vision for a smart urban future, speed cameras getting removed and Mazda's sleek new compact city crossover.

How BMW is reacting to its belief that global warming will change the way cars are built, sold and driven.

Car makers typically guard future model plans like the crown jewels. Vehicles are camouflaged, proving-ground gates are padlocked and media inquiries are batted back with the standard company line: ''We don't discuss future product.''

They do it because they don't want to telegraph their punches to the opposition and they don't want customers to hold off buying the current model in anticipation of the arrival of a new and improved one.

But in the brave new world of electrification, the old rules have been turned on their head. BMW last week spilled most of the beans on its first electric vehicle and hybrid supercar.

At a media briefing that rivalled the most extravagant of motor show reveals, the Bavarian luxury brand stunned the media with near-production versions of its new i3 electric city car and its i8 supercar; two cars that won't hit showrooms until late 2013 or early 2014.

This sudden impulse to talk about future products speaks volumes about the rapid pace of change in the automotive industry. Not so long ago, BMW's jewels in the crown were fire-breathing sports cars or big, fat limousines with lazy V8s.

But the world's dwindling oil resources have changed the game forever.

A board member and head of marketing and sales for BMW, Ian Robertson, says the pace of change is unprecedented.

''The car industry is roughly 100 years old; the next 10 could be more changeable than we have seen in that hundred years,'' he says. ''We could see more volatility and more change to our processes, more change to our technology and more change to the way our industry behaves than in the last hundred.''

He says cars will be manufactured differently, made of different materials, sold and marketed differently and even used differently.

The upcoming i3 is a case in point. Its aluminium floorpan and chassis is made largely from recycled soft drink cans, its carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic bodyshell contains recycled soft drink bottles and some of its cabin fabrics are made from hemp.

If that's not enough change, consider this: the two-piece body structure - an aluminium frame containing the chassis and drivetrain and a carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) passenger cell - is glued together, not welded.

The factory in which it will be built even uses natural lighting to reduce its electricity bills.

Once it is available to the public, there mightbe a number of i3 drivers who don't own the car but merely pick it up from a parking spot identified by their smartphones and drop it off elsewhere when they are finished with it.

''If you look at Tokyo, the vast proportion of under-25-year-olds who could have a driving licence don't, and they don't because all the parking spaces are gone and you needa parking space to have a car,'' Robertson says.

The idea of providing those people with mobility when they want it for a limited period is a strong business model, he says.

''People still want individual mobility. There's no question, no question about it in our mind. But you have to find new solutions for that.''

Yet, as BMW has found, the more the needs of customers change, the more they stay the same.

People want emissions-free motoring but not at the expense of convenience. And a field trial with 750 electric MiniE owners confirmed many wanted more range than the typical electric car could provide (typically 150 kilometres or less).

.''We did a lot of research with MiniE and we had 750 cars running in real customers' hands doing everyday real things and the average commute for an urban dweller is around 30 kilometres,'' Robertson says. ''Now these cars are fine for 30 kilometres but if you look at the weekend requirements - particularly in the large cities in the United States, where you might live in Los Angeles in the week but you might want to go to Tahoe at the weekend - then you need to have an ability to respond to that.''

Enter the range extender, a General Motors innovation that has appeared in the Chevrolet Volt and has proved a hit in the US, where a large part of the Mini trial was done. The range extender is a small petrol engine that doesn't power the wheels but acts merely as a generator to recharge batteries when they run low.

The range-extender model in effect does away with so-called range anxiety, a big barrier to customer acceptance of electric vehicles. However, it is also a less environmentally friendly solution and means - as vehemently as marketing departments try to tell people otherwise - the car becomes a hybrid, not a true electric vehicle.

''You need to have that ability to give a range extender,'' Robertson says. ''I do think that over the next few years, plug-in hybrids will probably gain much more traction than full battery-electric vehicles because of their more universal application.''

That's why the electric i3 will come with an optional petrol engine. Those familiar with BMW's penchant for an extensive list of costly options on their cars can't help but see the humour in the fact that the brand now makes even the engine an option.

No doubt executives at Lexus - which has led the way on hybrid technology in the luxury segment - will allow themselves a wry smile.

Robertson denies the decision to offer a range-extender option was a recent one based on feedback from MiniE customers.

''We always had this as an idea in our mind,'' he says.

However, when BMW announced the formation of its environmentally friendly ''i'' range in Geneva this year, it made no mention of a ''range-extender'' petrol engine in the i3, despite revealing detailed specifications of the car. Now, four months later, the option is buried deep in the 50-odd page media release on thenew ''i'' range.

Why is the German brand so reluctant to admit that it might have been an afterthought?

Probably because, despite the marketing spin that it is leading the electric revolution, BMW is relatively late to jump on the idea of electric propulsion for motor vehicles.

Honda and Toyota have had hybrid vehicles for more than a decade and General Motors, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Renault and the Peugeot-Citroen group have electric vehicles on sale in various markets. Many more will join the party before the i3 and i8 go on sale in late 2013.

BMW argues that some electric vehicles have been rushed to market, in effect, and are based on existing petrol-car platforms (Audi and Mercedes-Benz are adapting existing conventional platforms for their electric vehicles).

BMW is pushing the tagline ''born electric'' to market its i3 and i8; the idea being that while competitors have merely added electric motors to existing petrol cars, BMW has developed its electric cars from the ground up.

The company says that gives it advantages in packaging, because its cars don't have to accommodate an engine at the front, a driveshaft going through the cabin, a petrol tank and an exhaust system.

That also allows the Munich-based brand to build a relatively small car with a surprisingly spacious cabin - something like Dr Who's TARDIS .

A board member and head of development for BMW, Dr Klaus Draeger, is openly critical of some of the electric cars that have been built on petrol-car platforms.

''Conversions are always a compromise,'' he says. ''We can offer roominess on a very small floor space.''He says the ground-up approach - and the use of expensive carbon fibre - has saved between 250 and 350 kilograms.

Robertson also rejects suggestions the brand is playing catch up on eco-mobility.

''I think we're leading in many, many respects,'' he says. ''We still have one of the largest fleets of electric vehicles in real customer hands.

''Our knowledge is really at an advanced stage from real customer usage.

''These two cars [i3 and i8] are born electric. They were not conceived for something else. They weren't conceived to have an engine and then at some point we took the engine out and put a battery in or an electric motor in. We drew these from the ground up for an environmental-technical change point that we see as important in our industry.''

They might be late to the party but the new cars are impressive in their use of cutting-edge technology and materials.

The cars are like none that have come before them. The widespread use of expensive CFRP for the passenger cell is revolutionary, as is the idea to glue - or cold bond - the passenger cell to an all-aluminium frame that holds the vehicle's suspension, battery, drive systems and chassis.

It's not just the construction of the car that is revolutionary. The new ''i'' range will be part of a radical ''eco-mobility'' strategy for the company and it goes beyond simply selling cars, delving into real-time navigation and smartphone apps that avoid traffic snarls and find parking spots in congested cities.

The company will also be involved in car-sharing schemes.

The Frankfurt briefing gave more details about engine outputs and range for the two new cars, with BMW revealing it has ditched the small diesel engine from its EfficientDynamics supercar concept in favour of a three-cylinder petrol engine that will better suit the production i8's sporty character.

The i3, on the other hand, will have an electric motor over the rear axle, generating 125kW of power and 250Nm of torque - or pulling power - available from standstill. If the optional range-extender petrol engine is ordered, it will sit next to the electric motor and add another 100 kilograms to the weight of the car, reducing electric-only range and affecting performance.

BMW has stuck with the rear-wheel-drive layout as a point of differentiation with other electric vehicles and hybrids, which are predominantly driven through the front wheels and typically less than involving to drive.

BMW says the i3 concept will accelerate from 0-60km/h in less than four seconds and from 0-100km/h in less than eight seconds.

The battery can be fully recharged in six hours from a standard 240-volt power socket, or to 80 per cent capacity in an hour using a high-speed charger. Like many other electric vehicles, the i3 will be able to cover between 130 and 160 kilometres solely on battery power.

The company also revealed more interior design details for the two cars, including that the i3 will have bench seats that allow everyone inside to slide across and exit on the one side if it is parked in a tight spot.

The back doors are rear-hinged, making access to the seats easier, while there are luggage compartments in the back and front.

The i8, meanwhile, has its electric-drive system mounted over the front wheels, with a 162kW, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine driving the rear wheels.

The electric motor in the i8 can power the car for up to 35 kilometres, which will allow it to enter some city areas under electric power only, avoiding congestion charges.

Working in tandem with the petrol engine, it produces a claimed output of 260kW.

BMW says the car will accelerate from 0-100km/h in a sports car-like 4.6 seconds but use less fuel than a Prius, at 2.7 litres per 100 kilometres on the European fuel cycle, which is similar to the Australian calculation.

The lithium-ion battery can be charged from a domestic power supply and replenished during driving by a regenerative system that captures and stores kinetic energy usually lost when braking.

Despite the revolutionary carbon fibre-infused body, the i3 is not light for its size. It weighs about 1260 kilograms, or about the same as a Toyota Corolla or Mazda3. It is, however, considerably lighter than the Nissan Leaf electric car, which tips the scales at 1521 kilograms.

BMW claims CFRP is as strong as steel but about 50per cent lighter. By comparison, aluminium is 30per cent lighter than steel.

Both cars have the latest driver-assistance technology, including automatic parking, plus a low-speed ''traffic jam assistant'' that can automatically steer, accelerate and brake at speeds of up to 40 kilometres.

BMW won't be drawn on pricing for either car, although the i8 is expected to cost supercar money ($300,000).

The i3 will be priced at a premium over other electric cars, which suggests a price tag of anywhere between $60,000 and $80,000. Those prices condemn both cars to niche status and ensure neither are likely to make much of a dent in global warming.

But they will give a warm, self-satisfied glow to the people lucky enough to afford them.

10 AUGUST 2011

New Ford Focus Electric buyers will get solar power option


Ford Focus Electric at a charging station (Photo: Ford)

From Green Right Now Reports

Ford said today that it will offer customers a rooftop solar system with its new Focus Electric that goes on sale later this year. Ford said its “Drive Green for Life” option will provide buyers with enough clean, renewable energy to offset the electricity used to charge the vehicle.

The 2.5 kilowatt rooftop solar system will use solar panels from SunPower Corp. that produce an average of 3,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually. Ford said the high-efficiency solar panels generate approximately 50 percent more electricity than conventional panels and utilize a smaller footprint on the roof. The system will provide enough electricity for a customer who drives about 1,000 miles per month.

“It’s an eco-friendly solution that perfectly complements our plug-in products and other green initiatives,” Mike Tinskey, Ford director of Global Vehicle Electrification and Infrastructure, said in a statement.

The complete SunPower solar system will be available for about $10,000, after federal tax credits. Local and state rebates, along with other incentives, may drive the system cost down even more, depending on a customer’s location. Included in the purchase is a residential monitoring system, which includes the ability to track the performance of the solar system on the web or through a smartphone application.

SunPower also said it will offer financing options for the solar system.

In addition to the Focus Electric, the SunPower rooftop solar system will be compatible with the C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid electric vehicle Ford plans to roll out in 2012.

By partnering with SunPower, Ford said it will offer Focus Electric owners two complementary charging solutions to make the overall experience of owning an electric vehicle easier. In January, Ford announced an agreement with consumer electronics leader Best Buy to offer a 240-volt home charging station for the Focus Electric and future electric vehicle owners.

Electrification is an important piece of Ford’s overall product sustainability strategy, which includes the launch of five electrified vehicles in North America by 2012 and in Europe by 2013. Ford launched the Transit Connect Electric small commercial van in 2010 and will launch the all-new Focus Electric later this year in California and New York, before expanding the the rest of the nation.

In 2012, these models will be joined in North America by the new C-MAX Hybrid, a second next-generation lithium-ion battery hybrid and C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid.

13 AUGUST 2011

Abuzz with electric Mini

(The Age 130811)
By Chris Harris

BMW has published the results of its 12-month Mini E trial in Britain, which reveals nearly all of the study’s participants would consider purchasing an electric vehicle.

The trial consisted of 138 London residents – who were probably chosen carefully by Mini – sharing 40 Cooper-based Mini E models and covering more than 400,000 kilometres.

The data was collected electronically by data-loggers in the car and home charging points. The findings are likely to influence the development of BMW’s dedicated electric-vehicle model, the i3 city car, scheduled for launch in 2013.

About 30 per cent of the respondents said they would consider buying an EV within the next year but 55 per cent said they would wait two years or more.

When it came down to living with the electric Mini, the average daily distance was almost 50 kilometres.

Four out of five respondents said the two-seater would be suitable for 80 per cent of their needs if a rear seat and larger boot were added (occupied in present models by a bank of batteries).

The Mini E is powered by a 150kW electric motor and a 35kWh battery pack with a claimed real-world range of 180 kilometres.

Electric Vehicles Part 1
Electric Vehicles Part 2
Electric Vehicles Part 3
Electric Vehicles Part 4
Electric Vehicles Part 5
Electric Vehicles Part 6

DVD: "Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006)

Available in Australia


Australian Electric Vehicle Association

Blade Electric Vehicles

Ceres Community Environment Park - Electric Vehicle Conversions Project

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